It happened a long time ago, but I have not forgotten its lesson.
A single father (let’s call him ‘me’) is on the Whitehurst Freeway, driving at speed and anxious to see if the apartment inhabited by two sons and a daughter (and a dog) was still standing. Although they were great and responsible kids, stuff happens, especially when two high-energy, imaginative and high-spirited brothers are on their own.
My drive home was interrupted by a stop at the Safeway on MacArthur Boulevard to pick up nutritious fixings for dinner. Our preferred food pyramid meal at the time was four cans of chili over Fritos.
Times were tough. So I did something I almost never did: I bought a lottery ticket. I think it was $5.
I got in my car (orange Jeep, actually) and started it. First I thought I would wait until I got to the apartment. But then said ‘what the heck’ and scratched it.
Guess what? I had won $10,000!
I was in ecstacy before we knew what ecstacy really was.
I carefully put the card in my pocket (the Jeep had no top). I drove very, very carefully. I didn’t want to get into an accident or have it blow out of the Jeep … not when my ship had just come in.
On the short drive, I started to think what I would do with the money. Bills eroded some of my wilder schemes. Maybe I would replace a month in Paris with a long weekend at Ocean City. Whatever.
Then I started thinking about what I owed. I got gloomier as I got near the apartment.
By the time I pulled into the parking lot, I had figured out that $10,000 wasn’t going to be enough. Not by a long shot. It was peanuts. Chump change. I felt like a modern day Job, in a Jeep. Why me, oh great spirit? How come it couldn’t have been $20,000 or $25,000 or more?!
I sat in the Jeep trying to figure out how to break the bad news to the kids that I had only won $10,000. Then I checked the ticket again. I had read the numbers incorrectly.
Instead of a measly $10K, which wasn’t enough, I suddenly had nothing which was definitely not enough.
I later realized what had happened to me: I had gone from (near) deserving Saint to churl in 14 minutes.
There’s a good lesson there.
If you figure out what it is, drop me a line … or some money.
Mike has spent the majority of his life inside the Beltway and has an interesting and humorous perspective that he will share every Wednesday. Mike has spent his career covering the federal government for the Washington Post and now for Federal News Radio.